Chinese carrier China Telecom seems to have provided some confirmation of the imminent arrival of Apple’s rumored iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, Tech in Asia reports.
A now-deleted post (via Techweb) to micro-blogging service Sina Weibo claimed China will be among the first countries to receive Apple’s next-gen iPhones and offered a gift bag promotion for pre-order customers.
While it’s possible the Weibo post was the product of a social media team eager to capitalize on rumors, Apple does seem to be focusing heavily on the Chinese market with the upcoming launch. The company is holding a separate media event for Chinese press in Beijing on the morning of September 11, local time, just hours after its US event on September 10.
Apple’s plans may also have been tipped by a Chinese labor rights group earlier this week. China Labor Watch issued a report accusing a domestic manufacturer, which it believes to be involved in producing the so-called iPhone 5C, of ethical and legal violations.
China getting an early crack at the Apple’s new iPhones would be a new move, as Apple has tended to wait at least a couple months before releasing the iPhone on the mainland, in part because of the country’s lengthier regulatory process for approving mobile phones. However, the Chinese market is widely assumed to be a key motivation for Apple developing a more affordable iPhone.
The Greater China region, which also includes Taiwan and Hong Kong, has risen to become the second-largest market for Apple, and CEO Tim Cook has predicted that it will eventually overtake the US to become No. 1. After seeing impressive growth over the past few years, Apple posted both a sequential and year-over-year decline in revenue from Greater China in its latest fiscal quarter.
Meanwhile, local smartphone player Xiaomi, which recently revealed its global ambitions by hiring Google executive Hugo Barra, has put pressure on Apple after being estimated to have overtaken the iPhone in China.
While Apple’s growth in China may have slowed in recent months, the company could unlock enormous growth with the combination of a China Mobile deal and the iPhone 5C. Cook and China Mobile’s chairman reportedly met to discuss a possible deal, which has been years in the making, in July. As the world’s largest wireless operator with 750 million customers, China Mobile represents a massive opportunity for Apple. With its lack of official support for the country’s dominant carrier and higher price point, the iPhone has so far remained out of reach for most of China’s population, but an aggressively-priced iPhone 5C on China Mobile would change the game.
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